O Antiphon - 20th December
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, Who dost open and no man doth shut, Who dost shut and no man doth open: come and bring forth from his prison-house the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.
(Isaias 22. 22; Apocalypse 3. 7; St. Luke 1. 79)
Meditations - Wednesday in the third Week of Advent: The Life of Imprisonment, of Solitude, and of Silence of the Incarnate Word in Mary
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
In order that we may rightly fulfil the triple duty of studying, loving, and imitating the Incarnate Word, we will begin by meditating upon the life which He led during nine months in the womb of Mary, and we shall observe tomorrow that it was a life of imprisonment, solitude, and silence. We will then make the resolution: first, not to mix with the world without necessity; second, to love solitude and silence, as being more conducive to innocence of life and to the spirit of prayer. Our spiritual nosegay shall be the maxim of the Imitation: “It is in peace and silence that the soul makes progress” (The Imitation of Christ, lib. i xx:6).
Meditation for the Morning
Let us adore Jesus as a little child in the womb of Mary, which He willed to inhabit during nine months. He did not will to show Himself in the sight of the world all at once as a man. He preferred to follow the common condition of the human race, and to begin His life of the Incarnate Word in the womb of a woman. Let us admire, let us bless, this decree of His eternal wisdom, and let us beg of Him to enable us to understand it and to give us courage to imitate it.
The Life of the Incarnate Word in the Womb of Mary was a Life of Imprisonment.
Was ever prison darker? And yet how admirable it is that it was there He willed to remain during nine months, He who inhabits the splendours of the saints. It is there that, enclosing His immensity in the smallest possible space, abasing His omnipotence in the infirmity and His omniscience in the simplicity of a child, this gracious captive constituted Himself a prisoner for our crimes in order to spare us the dungeons of hell; a prisoner for our debts, because we were insolvent debtors; and He willed not to leave His prison until the hour and the day decreed by His Father. Moreover, it was to come into this world only to lead the life of the cross and of martyrdom, to die a cruel death, and to constitute Himself, until the end of all things, an obscure prisoner in the Most Holy Sacrament. O admirable and a thousand times amiable captive, render me a captive to Thy love, attaching me to Thy service by chains of love which nothing shall be able to break!
The Life of the Word Incarnate in the Womb of Mary a Life of Solitude.
Jesus willingly remains in this solitude, so entirely unknown that no one save Mary is aware that He is there. And wherefore that, except to teach us that we ought not to seek either to see or be seen; that the entire world, if we could see it as a whole and in its details, would offer us nothing more than a vain spectacle; that it is better far to keep ourselves hidden, and to be taking care of our souls, than to attract observation by miracles, and, at the same time, to be neglecting ourselves; that it is more profitable to treat with God than with creatures; that God takes pleasure in the solitude of the heart, far from tumult; that the more we separate ourselves from the world and its vain frivolities, the more closely God will draw nigh to us, will speak to our heart, will make us enjoy the delight of His presence, the sweetness of His consolations, the more facility we shall find in preserving ourselves pure and keeping up a holy intercourse with heaven. O life of retreat, how precious thou art! How good it is to shut the gates of our hearts to creatures, and there to converse with Jesus! Nowhere do we find such peace; nowhere is one so much to one’s self and to God. Do we esteem a life of retreat and of solitude in this manner?
The Life of the Word Incarnate in the Womb of Mary was a Life of Silence.
The Incarnate Word so greatly loves silence that during nine months He never spoke one word, and that for His birth He chose the night, when all creatures are silent (wis xviii:14, 15). Since His birth, down to the period when the generality of children begin to speak, He is silent; and from that moment down to His thirtieth year He still keeps silence, excepting when He utters words which are necessary or which propriety demands. During the three years of His mission He speaks because He is obliged to do so; but after His death, and until the end of all things, He keeps silence in the Eucharist. O wonderful silence, which teaches us that silence is the school of wisdom; that it is therein we educate ourselves and learn the great art of speaking and acting suitably, of acquiring a spirit of reflection, of faith, of recollection, and of prayer; that there is in the heart of man who keeps silence a treasure as precious as rests upon the lips of the wise man who speaks (Thomas à Kempis, Valley of Lilies); that piety which is not under the safeguard of silence is not durable (Ibid.); that too much speaking dissipates the mind (Ibid.), and leads us to commit many faults (pro x:19); lastly, that a religion which does not moderate the tongue is a vain religion (jam i:26). The more there is of silence, the more there is of innocence; if speaking dissipates the mind, silence brings it back. Before speaking, the wise man examines if what he is about to say is worth more than silence. Is it thus that we act? Do we find our happiness in keeping silence, and do we like better to hear others speak than to speak ourselves?
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.